Ajuve: Alex Bargate
In a world of high legal fees and lengthy waiting times, this start-up aims to help settle contract disputes quicker and cheaper than traditional methods
Name: Alex Bargate
Company Name: Ajuve
Location: Greater London
Date Launched: May 2016
Tell us what your business does:
Ajuve is the fast-track, online alternative for small businesses and individuals to resolve contract disputes quickly and effectively, cutting through the jargon and the mystery.
My father, Quentin Bargate, and I co-founded the platform to take a contract party through every stage of a dispute, from making a complaint right through to resolution and award via an independent arbitrator, all in around six weeks – far quicker than court.
Ajuve also provides users with free advice around claims and an arbitration clause for businesses to use in their contracts, to help them get things right from the start and make it easier to resolve any disputes down the line.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
After 30 years of experience in the legal sector, my father became increasingly frustrated with the time, cost and stress associated with dispute resolution and identified a clear gap in the market for an online alternative. After we put our heads together, Ajuve was the obvious solution.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We did a lot of market research ahead of launch, but from the start we knew the idea at its most basic was valid, because the issues with traditional dispute resolution are clear.
What were you doing before starting up?
Previously, I worked as a web developer and my father is senior partner at city law firm Bargate Murray. It was our combination of technical expertise and legal acumen that helped bring Ajuve to life.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
For as long as I can remember, it’s always seemed the obvious way forward for me. In school I took part in the young enterprise scheme, and after that I learned to code and started freelancing as a web developer specifically so that I could become good at bringing new tech ideas to life. Ajuve is one of those ideas.
There’s definitely a family element to it as well – my father left his job at a big London law firm in 2004 to start out on his own, and my grandfather also ran his own business. I suppose it’s in my genes!
How did you raise the money?
We have funding for the immediate future, but as the business scales up, with a potential international client base, then we may look at other sources of funding. As we progress, then scalability is key.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
Users can join Ajuve for free, and thereafter the costs are minimal. We charge parties to a dispute £25, plus 3% of the amount in dispute above £500. This is much cheaper than court.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
It’s tough putting together the right team. There are a lot of people out there who can really talk the talk. We’ve been lucky in a way that people really get our vision and get excited about it – that’s great! But very early on in the business we were taken in by potential business partners who were very enthusiastic and promised a lot, but really failed to deliver when it came down to it.
I think it’s important to trust your gut instinct if something doesn’t quite feel right, no matter how good it sounds. Learning from those early days, embracing this has served me well and I’m very proud to be working with everyone involved in the project now
What was your first big breakthrough?
Our launch! There is a lot to the Ajuve platform, and nothing quite like it already exists, so we spent a long time getting the product right, but finally getting it out there has been a huge relief and the positive feedback we’re getting so far has been very encouraging.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Validate your idea early. You might think you’re on to the next big thing, but make sure your market agrees with you – before you spend thousands building an amazing product!
Always ask why. If they like it, you still might learn a thing or two about their motivation, which is invaluable knowledge to have when you go on to market your business. If they don’t, that knowledge can help you adapt, or, sometimes, know when it’s time to move on, before you’ve sunk a lot of time and effort into the project.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
We want to build Ajuve into the largest provider of online dispute resolution services in the UK, providing businesses and consumers alike with an accessible and affordable way to deal with contract disputes.
We will also be looking for adoption and rapid growth in other commercial centres around the world. You can help by including the Ajuve Dispute Resolution clause (available for download from the Ajuve site) in all your contracts!